We whooped them good, in the end, out there on the snow-spattered plateau. The five Auger legions were heeling and toeing it toward the southeastern horizon, so intent on their goal that they could not see the danger bearing down upon them. They put out no scouts and established no rearguard. They did not expect us, so they never saw us coming.
As I said, a delight in their own potency. I will go to my grave wondering how the most significant technological find of the new Auger age did not rate, from their point of view, five thousand riding machines, while a battle to keep a city they had held for the last ten years devoured every available resource. Was Jerem Cozak so piquant? Did the jewel city Kasora contain treasures unimagined, but also unemployed? Or did they simply believe they had time enough to accomplish all these things? If the Augers had sent valkyries, they would have climbed the Road to the Sun while I was still napping on the beach.
Instead they died mid-morning upon an empty, wind-driven plain as flat as any tabletop. They were perhaps a watch’s march from the road’s beginning. The howling of the heavens buried the sound of our advent. The horizontal snow, just thick enough to obscure the distance, concealed our approach. My own scouts had reported five irregular columns, trailing long tails on the march, like ants across improbably white sand. I spread us out in an inverted crescent, ordered the charge from pretty much dead west, broadside. I swear they were still marching when our front line hit. They folded up like paper dolls. It wasn’t until I was mostly through the center column that the ranks tightened up and turned to face us – and then they were miserably equipped. Heatwhips do poorly from the ground against a charging valkyrie.